A painting by Ojibway-Odawa artist from Magnetawan First Nation near Sudbury, Autumn Smith, titled Medicine Woman.


Contemporary Indigenous peoples in Canada have their own ethics, cultures, histories, and politics as far as the concept of sexuality is concerned. Many of them struggle with the colonial legacies such as residential schools, which had a profound inter-generational impact on sexuality in Indigenous communities. Furthermore, Indigenous peoples face discrimination, homophobia, and misogyny, and suffer disproportionately higher rates of sexual abuse and sexually transmitted infections than other Canadians. Despite all of this, Indigenous peoples are in the process of reclaiming traditional understandings, practices, and teachings around sexuality, gender, and sexual relationships.

In this module, we will explore the notion of sexual colonization and how it is perpetuated through normative ideas about what “proper” sexuality is. As we have learned in this course, sexuality is not merely a personal choice but is shaped by institutions and socio-cultural scripts. As you will encounter throughout this module, aspects of Indigenous cultures, such as understandings of sex that are not associated with sin and evil, and the concept of Two Spirit, destabilize many Western ideas about gender and sexuality.

Learning Objectives

By the end of this module, you should be able to:

  • Recognize the relationship between sexual colonization and contemporary struggles faced by some Indigenous people in the realm of sexuality
  • Understand some of the ways that Indigenous genders and sexualities differed from settler sexualities and how settler colonialism imposed European gender binaries and sexual mores on Indigenous peoples
  • Explain terms such as Two Spirit, Indigiqueer, Indigenous Rematriation, and Indigenous eco-erotics
  • Discuss what it means to decolonize sexuality